Regulator testing new approach to charity classification

The Charity Commission has pledged to improve the “vague” data it holds on how voluntary organisations work.

The commission is testing a new approach to collecting data on what charities do and how they provide services, following consultation with the sector. Changes will then be made to the charity register during the next 12 months.

The commission has asked small charities in particular to participate in user-testing the new categories.

Writing about the way the regulator classifies charities’ work, Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the commission, said: “The data we currently gather in this area is vague.

“For example, around half of all registered charities have educational purposes, but we cannot say how many of those run schools, or are pre-school providers, or research institutes, or vocational training.

“More specific information about the sort of charity we are dealing with will mean the commission can provide better and more relevant support to trustees.”

The commission has suggested that the public register shows not just the general charitable purpose of a charity but sub-categories that identify further details about its focus.

In response to a consultation on the proposed changes, the commission said that it is also updating some of the terms used to describe charity work.

For example, references to “overseas aid” and “famine” work have been replaced with “international development” and “humanitarian aid”.

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